Q&A: Why should administrators encourage teacher self-reflection?

A guide to how and why self-reflection is so important to professional development.
By: | September 23, 2021

Krina Shah heads up the content and community team at Edthena.

As teachers across the country settle into a year like no other, administrators are looking for ways to support them while also dealing with staff shortages and managing COVID-related issues. One way administrators can offer this much-needed support without a heavy lift is by encouraging teacher self-reflection.

We recently spoke with former teacher and instructional coach Krina Shah about self-reflection and how to support teachers with this best practice.

In terms of PD, why is self-reflection so important for teachers?

Teachers are often so busy meeting the current needs of students that they don’t have time to think about their own development. But, just like teachers use assessment data to understand what students have mastered and where they need improvement, self-reflection helps reveal areas they themselves need to work on as educators.

Self-reflection is incredibly important when it comes to growth of any kind. When teachers look back on where they started when working on something and then reflect on how they have grown, those improvements are more likely to stick.

Why is now an important time to engage in self-reflection?

Often, self-reflection might be seen as a nice-to-have instead of a necessity for improvement. Or, self-reflection may come naturally at the end of the year when looking at how far students have come.

But now, especially after the last 18-plus months of unprecedented distanced teaching, teachers need to assess their own strengths and weaknesses in order to better meet the needs of their students, many of whom have not been in a classroom for more than a year. And this assessment – or self-reflection – should be done now as they begin the school year, as well as ongoing throughout the year.

How can administrators help their educators get started with the self-reflection process?

First, help teachers determine what they want to focus on. Teachers have a tendency to be superheroes and try to take on everything at once, but helping them choose just two or three things to work on for the year will help them to be successful.

Second, provide the mental and physical space for teachers to reflect on their teaching.

Third, provide teachers with some prompts for their self-reflection, such as:

  • What skills was I working on prior to the pandemic?
  • What did I learn about myself as a teacher last year?
  • Was I able to work on those skills last year?
  • What did I do really well last year that I want to recreate this year?
  • What was difficult last year that I want to focus on mastering this year?
  • What did I learn about my students last year that I want to remember with this year’s class?

Related: Why new teacher mentoring can fall short, and 3 ways to fix it

How can edtech enhance the reflection process?

Technology can make the reflection process more efficient. For example, teachers can capture video of their teaching in the moment and reflect on it when the time is convenient for them. With video, the more they take, the more of their teaching there is to reflect on. This also enables teachers to see students’ reactions to lessons that they may have missed in the teaching moment.

Some technology platforms also allow teachers to receive feedback from peers and coaches and to save artifacts they can use for reflection. In addition, having quick access to student data can help teachers reflect on how their teaching impacted student learning.

What are other PD best practices and ways educators can continue their professional growth this school year?

There are so many great resources available for educators – from videos of exemplar teaching practices and podcasts to books on pedagogy and professional learning communities. By providing teachers with autonomy and variety when it comes to professional learning, administrators can help them find the best ways to improve their teaching practice.

Krina Shah heads up the content and community team at Edthena.

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